Severe complications among flu patients are occurring in a different demographic than is typical for influenza; while most strains hit those over 65 and those younger than five the hardest, this year’s predominant strain, H1N1, is affecting young and middle aged adults more severely. In the state of Arkansas, 25 people with an average age of 42 have died so far this season.
H1N1 first came on the scene in 2009 also affected younger adults; one of the reasons for this is a phenomenon known as “cytokine storms”. H1N1 hits the epithelial cells of the lung with great ferocity, causing a young, healthy person’s immune systems to go into overdrive, sending antibodies only to that area of the body. In a rather cruel irony, it affects most severely those with the healthiest immune systems among us.
Because of this, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that the following adults are the most at risk this flu season:
- Young and middle aged adults, who also happen to be the least likely among the population to become vaccinated
- Pregnant women and up until 2 weeks postpartum
Some of the severe complications that can occur include:
- bacterial coinfection
It’s Not Too Late to Get a Flu Shot
The CDC is still urging those who haven’t gotten a flu shot to go ahead and do so, because this season is going to be a long one. It began making its infamous appearance in late September — and while the flu has normally peaked by this time, health officials say this year’s peak dates are still several weeks away.
States with the highest hit regions are turning away visitors from hospitals who have a cough, and are urging those who become infected with the flu to wear a mask at all times to keep the infection relatively contained.